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Libyan mass grave holds 157 bodies

BIN JAWWAD, Libya - Libyan government officials said Sunday they have uncovered a mass grave with 157 bodies of rebel fighters and civilians in an eastern town that was a major battleground during the country’s 2011 civil war.

It is the largest grave yet to be discovered from the conflict that began as a popular uprising and ended with the capture and killing of Libyan leader Moammar Khadafy last October.

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Nearly five months after the civil war ended, the country’s new government is struggling to rebuild a national security force, unify the country’s militias and tribes under its authority, and ready the country’s justice system to handle cases of those accused of war crimes, including Khadafy’s son and onetime heir apparent, Seif al-Islam.

The effects of the war itself are still apparent.

The leader of the new government-run missing persons office, Omar al-Obeidi, said that 80 of the bodies discovered in Bin Jawwad have been identified. He said they are all from eastern Libya. The youngest was a 17-year-old male.

“These are civilians who were protesting in their cities and killed by Khadafy’s men,’’ he said referring to armed fighters and residents of eastern cities.

Obeidi said most appear to have died from gunshot wounds and rocket strikes starting in March. Some were executed, while others were severely disfigured from rocket attacks, he said.

The excavation of the bodies began Friday and finished Sunday.

He said a “Martyrs’ Parade’’ has been planned for those found in the mass grave. The procession, scheduled for Monday, will start in Bin Jawwad and conclude in the former rebel capital of Benghazi.

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